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Thread: "Math Anxiety"

  1. #1

    Default "Math Anxiety"

    I'm actually not sure quite how to approach this topic, but it's creating something of an identity crisis for me at the moment.

    I don't suffer with "math anxiety" -- I'm actually very good at math. But I've been able, many times over the years, to overcome this issue in other people. I don't entirely understand how, it just happened. I could shut the anxiety off like a switch, and suddenly the problems would become easy for them.

    The anxiety was the real issue, not the math.

    I noticed this in graduate school when I was teaching Math to freshmen. I ran my own class "from soup to nuts," and loved that, and it was consistently packed. But more illustrative were the "help sessions" I was required to run with another TA. I had some choice about the topic I helped with, e.g. which help session I ran, and I usually chose Calculus.

    Every semester, I would literally have a line of students out the door. And they wouldn't even talk to the other TA, he was left twiddling his thumbs. I'd feel bad for him.

    I haven't had many opportunities since then to apply this skill. I kind of feel like I'm wasting my life, focusing more on computer programming and simulators because that's where the money is, and my family left me with a mountain of student loan debt (that's another story, revolving around a bait-and-switch tactic). There have been a few -- I've done some tutoring. And the effect has been the same. It suddenly becomes easy for the other person once they aren't afraid of it...

    I think, possibly, this same effect has applied in other contexts when I wasn't necessarily aware of it. It's not an intentional thing, it just happens.

    I can't ignore it anymore, but I'm not sure what I should do with it. I think that's really what this post comes down to. I don't want to feel like I'm wasting my life anymore.

    Thanks for any input.

  2. #2

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    All the money or the simple life, the fulfillment and most likely peace of mind.

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by MommyandMattling View Post
    All the money or the simple life
    Yeah, more or less... the question is which is more conducive to "life"...

  4. #4

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Slomo View Post
    Sounds like you should be a counselor, not a teacher.
    You're not the first person to suggest that... o.o;;; I've never tried that before.

    Teaching Math was easy for me because it's something I'm good at and feel very comfortable with. I didn't think "teaching" would be easy, I was a nervous wreck at first about getting up in front of a class full of people and talking, but in the end it just came naturally. As far as teaching goes, my approach was more or less the Socratic method. Usually, at the beginning of a semester, my class would be a bit hesitant... and I would categorically refuse to call on anyone unless they had their hand up... but by the end it was like having a conversation with the whole room. When I was evaluated by the course coordinator, he not only had to go find a chair, but he was floored that I was getting that kind of response. He actually asked me "what my secret" was. These were Freshman-level classes that for the most part were being taken by non-STEM majors mainly for the credits, they weren't inherently interested in the material. I got to design my own syllabus, so there was no attendance policy, and no "participation grade". Basically, "no bullshit" was how I went about it. I actually put quite a bit of thought into the mechanics of the course. It's more involved than I can easily describe here,

    - - - Updated - - -

    I suppose I'll have to describe a little. So I'll try.

    So, for example, there were weekly homework assignments from the book provided. I didn't collect them. And I specifically only assigned problems that had answers available in the back of the book, so students could check their work. Rather than collecting homework, there was a weekly in-class quiz that basically consisted of homework problems with different numbers. Why? Well, not everyone needs the same level of practice, or needs to do a hundred problems before they understand something. I didn't want to waste their time. The point of the quizzes was that the student has to take the responsibility to ensure they understand how to do the problems by the end of the week; if they do, the quiz is a cakewalk. If they don't, they end up feeling a bit kicked in the teeth, but the quizzes actually weren't worth very much anyway. In terms of the final grade, I counted the best 10 out of 13 quiz scores (more if they did extra credit), and each one I counted was worth a whopping 2% of the final grade. It was peanuts. But it FELT important because it was in-class and timed and etc. In reality it wasn't how I measured student's understanding at all, it was just a feedback mechanism.

    There's a lot more than this, but this probably provides some indication.
    Last edited by Sapphyre; 13-Jan-2017 at 17:09.

  6. #6

    Default



    Quote Originally Posted by Sapphyre View Post
    I'm actually not sure quite how to approach this topic, but it's creating something of an identity crisis for me at the moment.

    I don't suffer with "math anxiety" -- I'm actually very good at math. But I've been able, many times over the years, to overcome this issue in other people. I don't entirely understand how, it just happened. I could shut the anxiety off like a switch, and suddenly the problems would become easy for them.

    The anxiety was the real issue, not the math.

    I noticed this in graduate school when I was teaching Math to freshmen. I ran my own class "from soup to nuts," and loved that, and it was consistently packed. But more illustrative were the "help sessions" I was required to run with another TA. I had some choice about the topic I helped with, e.g. which help session I ran, and I usually chose Calculus.

    Every semester, I would literally have a line of students out the door. And they wouldn't even talk to the other TA, he was left twiddling his thumbs. I'd feel bad for him.

    I haven't had many opportunities since then to apply this skill. I kind of feel like I'm wasting my life, focusing more on computer programming and simulators because that's where the money is, and my family left me with a mountain of student loan debt (that's another story, revolving around a bait-and-switch tactic). There have been a few -- I've done some tutoring. And the effect has been the same. It suddenly becomes easy for the other person once they aren't afraid of it...

    I think, possibly, this same effect has applied in other contexts when I wasn't necessarily aware of it. It's not an intentional thing, it just happens.

    I can't ignore it anymore, but I'm not sure what I should do with it. I think that's really what this post comes down to. I don't want to feel like I'm wasting my life anymore.

    Thanks for any input.
    Were you a math major too?

    For most of secondary math was my weakest subject. That's not to say I was bad at it, twas still a grade ahead of my year's "advanced" math class. (which isn't saying much for the backwater high school I went to. calc I in 10th instead of 11th) That was until calc, when math stopped being so much "write exactly down what I tell you to, DO NOT DEVIATE" and more "just solve the problem however, bonus points if you do it creatively."

    I'd also read a lot of fantasy when I was younger, and was fascinated with the idea of magic-approached-as-a-science in a lot of books. Going to a school for magic, a discipline that pushes minds to new & rare levels of understanding and learning to manipulate the universe at it's most basic level via symbology was my dream since I was a kid. It was in that calculus class I found out that math was "magic" in our sadly-unpopulated-with-swords-and-sorceries world, or at least my version. Then I started reading up (at a very basic level) on predicate calculus, discrete geometry, number theory, borrowed and went through a bunch of my teacher's college textbooks and my mind was just blown by where advanced mathematics was going and right then I knew the main thing I wanted to do with my life. God knows I'd probably stand out more in other fields, but no other field feels as plain magical as mathematics. In fact, that math-as-the-magic-underlying-everything analogy is what's getting me through my last year as a math/stat undergrad. xD

    And I chalk all that up to a great calculus teacher who'd stay with me after class if I wanted to talk about aleph numbers or the banach-tarski paradox, or who would borrow me his old college textbooks for weeks at a time.

  7. #7

    Default



    Quote Originally Posted by Orange View Post
    Were you a math major too?

    For most of secondary math was my weakest subject. That's not to say I was bad at it, twas still a grade ahead of my year's "advanced" math class. (which isn't saying much for the backwater high school I went to. calc I in 10th instead of 11th) That was until calc, when math stopped being so much "write exactly down what I tell you to, DO NOT DEVIATE" and more "just solve the problem however, bonus points if you do it creatively."

    I'd also read a lot of fantasy when I was younger, and was fascinated with the idea of magic-approached-as-a-science in a lot of books. Going to a school for magic, a discipline that pushes minds to new & rare levels of understanding and learning to manipulate the universe at it's most basic level via symbology was my dream since I was a kid. It was in that calculus class I found out that math was "magic" in our sadly-unpopulated-with-swords-and-sorceries world, or at least my version. Then I started reading up (at a very basic level) on predicate calculus, discrete geometry, number theory, borrowed and went through a bunch of my teacher's college textbooks and my mind was just blown by where advanced mathematics was going and right then I knew the main thing I wanted to do with my life. God knows I'd probably stand out more in other fields, but no other field feels as plain magical as mathematics. In fact, that math-as-the-magic-underlying-everything analogy is what's getting me through my last year as a math/stat undergrad. xD

    And I chalk all that up to a great calculus teacher who'd stay with me after class if I wanted to talk about aleph numbers or the banach-tarski paradox, or who would borrow me his old college textbooks for weeks at a time.
    Well, not originally. I majored in Math during Graduate school, but as an undergrad I was a Computer Science major. That kind of bit me a little bit, because when I started grad school I had a lot of catching up to do.

    Calculus, in particular, though, feels very much like "hacking" algebra. I love it. ^^;;

    I'm glad you had such a cool teacher!!

    Re Banach-Tarksi, this is the most interesting video I've yet come across:

    Banach-Tarski

    And don't even get me started on number theory, that's some interesting stuff! ^^;

  8. #8

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    Get your doctorate in math and teach at the college level. I've taught math at the junior high level and you spend half your time dealing with discipline. The other thing I realized is that after several years of teaching math, you realize you're teaching the same math problems over and over and it gets really boring. That's why I love music.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by dogboy View Post
    Get your doctorate in math and teach at the college level. I've taught math at the junior high level and you spend half your time dealing with discipline. The other thing I realized is that after several years of teaching math, you realize you're teaching the same math problems over and over and it gets really boring. That's why I love music.
    Noted. I don't deal with "discipline" at all, really. My quizzes were designed to be motivating, but that's about as far as I'll go. My "allergy" to being a disciplinarian is largely why I haven't gone into teaching.

    But there are other reasons. Most who teach, even at the college level, in the US, are hired on an "adjunct" basis. They are not tenured and can be fired at any time. It's not a very stable career, at least here. :-(

  10. #10

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    Hi Sapphyre. My advice to you is to remember that life is long and you can do a lot of things. If you've got a lot of debt right now and you need to pay it off, there's nothing wrong with doing some programming or IT work of various sorts to make some money. Especially if you get to work on your own projects on the side. There are a number of school, counseling, and mentoring volunteer opportunities at various levels and that might be the sort of thing that would be right up your alley. Later on, after you've paid off the debt and have some money saved up, you always have the option of going into a program for a teaching credential or to become a counselor, or simply to look at jobs in other fields including teaching (many private schools don't even require a credential, although I highly recommend them as I think they open a lot of doors in the teaching world).

    Making one decision now doesn't preclude you from making another one later.



    Quote Originally Posted by dogboy View Post
    Get your doctorate in math and teach at the college level. I've taught math at the junior high level and you spend half your time dealing with discipline. The other thing I realized is that after several years of teaching math, you realize you're teaching the same math problems over and over and it gets really boring. That's why I love music.
    The discipline thing depends heavily on the student body. My 8th grade math class was an honors course and we had zero discipline problems. I'm actually still friends with a few people from that class, and we were really dedicated at the time.

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